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Fix the team now, PSL owners implore

By Mark Washburn And Joseph Person
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.comjperson@charlotteobserver.com

In a full-page ad in Monday’s Charlotte Observer sports section, an anonymous group of Panther fans holding Permanent Seat Licenses called upon owner Jerry Richardson to take steps to improve the team and its key coaches.

“We are a group of local business folks and long-time Panthers Permanent Seat License owners writing to call a regrettable personal foul on the most tenured and venerable member of the Carolina Panthers organization – You!” the open letter began.

It expresses frustration with the 2012 season in which the Panthers have the third worst winning percentage – .357 – in the National Conference. Monday’s ad was bought before Sunday’s 31-7 victory over the San Diego Chargers, the first back-to-back Panther wins of the year.

Second-year coach Ron Rivera was particularly singled out for criticism.

“His reported salary is 40-50 percent below the salaries of the top ten highest paid NFL head coaches who, not surprisingly, also happen to have the best winning records in the league. Now, after a few inconsequential, late season wins, you are hinting that you might keep Rivera around for at least another year. Of course, that would avoid millions of dollars of severance cost for you and your partners. It would also perpetuate the legacy of Panthers’ management, player personnel and coaching inadequacies that is revealed on the playing field most Sundays.”

Rivera’s sideline demeanor is one of detachment and sometimes bewilderment, and, “His clock management would be a mystery even to the Swiss,” said the letter, signed Perturbed Panther PSL Owners Federation with an email address of PerturbedPantherPSLowners@gmail.com .

“As business executives for many years ourselves, we know that if the Panthers were a company accountable to its public investors, with a perennial performance record that resembled your win-loss record, its board of directors would have a crisis on their hands … We implore you to stop providing on-the-job training for critical Panthers’ management and coaching positions.”

Rivera said Monday he had not seen the ad and had no comment on it.

Noting that the value of the Panthers franchise had grown from $200 million in 1995 to $1.04 billion in 2011 and ranks as the 13th most valuable professional sports team in the nation according to Forbes magazine, the group implored Richardson to spend more on talent, particularly in the face of possible public subsidies to Bank of America Stadium.

“And, please, treat your public investors – us local fans and taxpayers – more like your well rewarded private business partners. We have been hoping and paying for nearly 20 years!”

PSLs entitle the owner to buy seats in the same location each season, with prices matching their desirability. They range in price from $20,000 (with an annual ticket fee of $1,090 per seat) in the club level to $2,000 (annual ticket fee of $460) in the upper reaches of the stadium.

PSLs tend to move at commodity prices on the open market, with the value exceeding the initial investment during strong seasons and dropping below their price in losing years.

Washburn: 704-358-5007.
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